Shark attacks have been making big headlines this summer, with several of them taking place on the part of the North Carolina coast I call home. Fortunately, none of the attacks proved to be fatal but all of the victims face a long road to recovery from their injuries.

Aside from the physical toll the attacks have taken, the victims’ families are also having to deal with the financial fallout of unexpected medical expenses. While the odds of being attacked by a shark on vacation are relatively low, the likelihood of getting involved in a car accident or getting sick are much higher.

Your regular health insurance may pick up the tab but if you’re headed out on a summer trip, packing the right credit card can offer some additional protection in case disaster strikes.  

Flickr |

Accidental injuries and deaths spike significantly during the summer travel season. Flickr source

What type of benefits do you get with credit card travel protections?

The kinds of travel benefits you can take advantage of vary from one card to the next and they’re included as a free perk of membership.

Certain protections are more valuable than others, so if you’re shopping around for a new travel rewards card for a summer trip, here’s what you’ll want to be on the lookout for:

Travel accident insurance – Generally, you’d be able to claim benefits if you’re involved in an accident that leads to a permanent disability, loss of limb or death, although each card imposes exclusions on what qualifies.

Emergency assistance – You can use this service to arrange transportation or get referrals for medical or legal help. (Hopefully the victims of the shark attacks had this covered.)

Car rental coverage – If you rent a car, you have the option of getting the rental company’s insurance or using the coverage offered by your credit card. A credit card’s insurance typically protects you against theft or collision damage if you’re involved in an accident.

Trip cancellation insurance – If you get sick and you’re forced to end your vacation early, trip cancellation insurance reimburses you for some of the expense if you’re forced to end your vacation early.

Comparing travel card protections

We’ve included a quick table detailing which travel benefits the top-rated cards come with.

Card NameTravel Accident InsuranceTrip Cancellation CoverageCar Rental CoverageEmergency Travel Assistance
Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®Yes, up to $250,000Yes, up to $1,500YesYes
Capital One Venture RewardsYes, up to $250,000NoYesYes
Chase Sapphire PreferredYes, up to $500,000Yes, up to $10,000YesYes

Chase Sapphire Preferred


The Chase Sapphire Preferred®card from Chase consistently scores great ratings for its rewards structure but it offers more than just points to travelers. You also get up to $500,000 in accidental death or dismemberment insurance when you use your card to book air, train, bus or cruise travel and up to $10,000 in tip cancellation coverage.

[Related: How to Get Back $450 from Your Travel Credit Card After a Flight Delay]

Rental car coverage for theft and collision is available if you charge the cost to your card and decline the rental company’s insurance. Chase Sapphire Preferred®users also have access to Chase Global Lifeline, which offers 24/7 emergency travel assistance in the U.S. and abroad.

Other travel perks: 

– No foreign transaction fees

– 1:1 points transfer to selected frequent traveler programs

– 20 percent travel discount when you book through Ultimate Rewards

– Trip and baggage delay reimbursement

Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard®


As far as travel rewards cards go, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus™ World Elite MasterCard® gives the Chase Sapphire Preferred®card a run for its money in terms of it’s points-earning power. For insurance, the coverage limits are lower but it’s still a solid choice for travelers. For example, the card’s travel accident insurance covers the loss of speech, vision, hearing, two or more limbs or life as the result of an accident, up to $250,000.

The limit for trip cancellation is set at $1,500, but you still get the benefit of 24-hour emergency assistance as well as full reimbursement for rental car damage or theft.

Other travel perks: 

– No foreign transaction fees

– Baggage delay reimbursement

– 5% miles back when you redeem miles for travel

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card


The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card offers points towards travel along with all the benefits that go along with Visa Signature protection. That includes up to $250,000 in travel accident insurance, round-the-clock travel assistance and car rental coverage.

You also get emergency ticket replacement, emergency translation services if you’re traveling in a foreign country and emergency transportation services if you need to get home quickly following an accident. There is one downside since the card doesn’t come with trip cancellation coverage.

Other travel perks:

– Up to $3,000 in lost luggage reimbursement

– No foreign transaction fees

– 24-hour roadside assistance

Before you head out on vacation

Image via Flickr

If you’re planning a trip this summer, checking your existing health insurance policy before you go can help you pinpoint any gaps in your coverage that a credit card may be able to fill.

If you’re signing up for a brand-new card or using one you already have to book your trip, be sure to read over the fine print carefully so you understand exactly what scenarios the travel insurance protections apply to.

Otherwise, you could end up footing the bill if your vacation ends up getting spoiled by an accident or illness.

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